Sunday, June 12, 2022

John 8:48-59; Festival of the Holy Trinity; June 12, 2022;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” (John 8:48–59, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

What Jesus says is unacceptable. Not only does he say he's greater than Abraham, not only did he say he saw Abraham, but he also says "before Abraham was, I Am." In other words, Jesus claims to be God himself. He uses the very name God gave to Moses at the burning bush. When Moses was kneeling on the holy ground, he asks who shall I say has sent me to Pharaoh? And God answers, "I am that I am." (אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה) And so, these men of God in the temple pick up stones to throw them a Jesus and kill him. Chrysostom the great fourth century preacher asked the question, when Jesus makes himself equal to God
"Would they have ever stopped throwing stones at him?" (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, IV a, page 318)

Get out of your mind once and for all the picture of gentle Jesus. Jesus doesn't speak Facebook platitudes, pithy sayings with cute kitten pictures. Jesus confronts sin and unbelief. This is what the Word, in the Word Made Flesh, has come to do. He confronts sin, and its effects in human beings. He confronts death, and all that it means for human beings. He will not let sin have its way. He does the father's will, even if it means the cross. And that's exactly what it means.

What we have in this text today is a full-blown argument. Jesus doesn't tell the Jews what they want to hear. He tells them their relationship to God is directly connected to him. So, the religious leaders argue with Jesus about their relationship with God through their birthright as the children of Abraham. Jesus flat-out tells them they are the children of the devil because they don't listen to God's voice through him. They have already lost the argument and so they do what people do, they attacked Jesus' person. They called him the lowest thing they could think of a demon possessed Samaritan. And Jesus turns the tables on them. He says, "you dishonor me." And the implication is clear. Jesus is sent by God, if you dishonor Jesus, you dishonor God. And then Jesus pushes the argument further.

"If you listen to me and keep my word, you won't die." And the Jews think they had him.

"Abraham kept God's word, all the prophets kept God's word, but they are all dead and buried. You are mad. Who do you think you are?"

And Jesus lowers the boom. He disconnects them from Abraham. "You say Abraham's God is your God. But you don't know him. I do. I'm not a liar like you. I'm here to do what he has commanded. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad."

Now they're really angry.

"You're not old enough to have seen Abraham." He says that they wouldn't know Abraham's God if he was standing in front of them.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am."

In other words, he is standing in front of them. It's more than they can bear. Their anger boils over into action. They reached down and pick up stones to kill him. But they can't. Through a miracle, Jesus protects himself and leaves the temple.

Nothing is changed. We pretend everything is different. Jesus is fine when we hear him tell us what we want to hear. When we hear him tell us he has a great purpose for our lives. When we hear him tell us he wants us to be rich and powerful. When we hear him tell us that being a Christian is easy. But these are things that Jesus would never say. Instead, Jesus attacks our sinfulness. He tells us obeying his word is more important than our family relationships. He tells us it does make a difference which church you (and your children) belong to. He tells us we are no better than the open adulterer. He tells us we have no excuse for selfishness. He tells us when we follow him the world will hate us. When we do these things we dishonor Jesus, and when we dishonor Jesus, we dishonor The Father. So, there we stand in our sin convicted by the Word of God, in the flesh.

Now, we confess that we are sinful people in need of a Savior. But what Jesus tells us is hard to swallow. We do not see ourselves as sinful, but rather imperfect. We don't see ourselves as deserving eternal punishment but rather minor correction. We don't see ourselves as deserving death but rather rehabilitation. Jesus tells us the only way to escape, the only way to not see death, to not taste death, is to keep his word. He tells the truth. He is God himself standing before the sinner as unrelenting judge. And even though he tells you the truth, it is impossible for you to believe it. And we stand convicted of our sin, falling well short of God's perfect expectation. And so, we want him dead. That is the only place that this confrontation with Jesus can lead to death.

God requires eternal death for sin, in fact, it is either you or him. This is the day that Abraham saw. This is the day of Jesus. Abraham saw what the Jews could not see. Abraham saw our hopeless situation. And Abraham saw God, I am that I am, reconciling the world to himself through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And he rejoiced. You see, despite your sin, Jesus stands before you in the flesh offering death, but not yours. Jesus Christ, true God, and true man, offers himself on the cross to satisfy God's punishment. Jesus is the substitute sinner. Jesus is God in human flesh dying on the cross for the sins of all people. This is how he confronts sin and death. His death on the cross is the perfect death and perfect and complete sacrifice for sin. There is no other that can be offered. There is no other that you need. The death of I Am on the cross is enough to satisfy the punishment for all sin for all time for all people. And this is all that Jesus claims when he claims that "before Abraham was, I Am." He is God come to reconcile the world to himself.

And so, he reconciles you. You and your sin. You and your lies. You and your selfishness. You and your misplaced priorities. You and your sinful nature are taken to the cross with Jesus. And there in Jesus, death receive forgiveness. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen

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